Both drivers and fans alike find Formula One and DTM races particularly entertaining when it’s wet. Ralf and Michael Schumacher tell us about the challenges and peculiarities of wet weather racing.
It’s cold and damp, not very pleasant at all, but nonetheless, fans just love wet weather racing. An action-packed session is on the cards whenever you see cars aquaplaning and not just hurtling past at top speeds. It’s nip and tuck and anything can happen. But it’s not only fans who enjoy these skirmishes on a wet circuit. “When it’s raining, there are plenty of openings and overtaking is easier once you’re in position,” says Michael.
That applies to Formula One and to Europe’s most popular saloon car racing series, the DTM, which is currently home to two Mercedes-Benz drivers, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard, who have experienced many scraps in the wet whilst contesting both classes.
“Wet weather driving is very difficult in a DTM car,” says Ralf. It’s down to the sheer weight of the car amongst other things. Ralf’s Laureus AMG Mercedes C-Class weighs just over a thousand kilos. According to Formula One regulations, an MGP W01 Silver Arrow should tip the scales at 620kg minimum.
DTM and Formula One cars peform very differently in the wet as far as grip and driving lines are concerned. Ralf: “The worst thing is when the car doesn’t give you the feedback you need. It’s really hard to drive, there’s no grip and you don’t feel safe as you skittle all over the place.” That can cost a driver an enormous amount of time.
Another thing that surprised DTM rookie David Coulthard during his first wet weather qualifying at Hockenheim: “My feet were sodden. I always thought that these cars were nice and dry!”
Ralf’s brother Michael has celebrated many notable victories during wet weather races amongst his tally of 91 Grand Prix wins. “I’ve always done well in the rain even though I perhaps didn’t enjoy the race very much,” Michael tells us. The reason is obvious: driver error is much more likely during a wet weather race and there’s more chance for things to go wrong. Victory is sweeter if you’ve driven well on a wet track.
Michael’s not lost his touch in the wet during his three-year absence. It quickly came back to him at the first rain-hit qualifying of the season in Malaysia. “In Q2, when we were all on the same tyres, I was immediately quickest,” he reminded us. Michael repeated this feat at the Korean Grand Prix, when he overtook two competitors one after the other. Rain doesn’t bother him, no matter how foul the weather.